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Skyshaker's New Mix on NON Records Will Make You Reassess How You Think About Voguing

"This mix aims to redirect the media's attention away from those who 'vogue' because they like to and towards those who vogue because they need to."

by Alexander Iadarola
Mar 2 2016, 11:00pm

Mix art courtesy of the artist

Qween Beat-affiliated producer, Skyshaker, has shared a new mix entitled "The Brogue Wars" via NON Records, a Pan-Africanist collective that "[creates] sound opposing contemporary canons." "Brogue" is a play on "Vogue," and the mix accordingly "aims to redirect the media's attention away from those who 'vogue' because they like to and towards those who vogue because they need to," Shyshaker told THUMP via email.

The mix's subtitle, "Day Nine Thousand Four Hundred Seventy Nine," refers to roughly the number of days that have passed (26 years) since Madonna's infamous music video for her single "Vogue" was released, which played a very significant role in introducing vogue culture to popular audiences beyond the Black, queer, Brown, femme, trans, and poor spaces of color where it originated.

Skyshaker AKA Skylaurr Rauthkeaux's work here features a wide range of producers, from Atlanta's Divoli S'vere and Qween Beat boss MikeQ, to Berlin's Lotic and NYC legend Kevin Aviance, all giving their all on the contested battlefield that is "The Brogue Wars." The artist was kind enough to give an interview to THUMP on this special occasion; read that below, listen to the mix as the bottom, and read the statement he shared with the mix here.

THUMP: What is the message of this mix?
Shyshaker: 26 years after Madonna's "Vogue", this mix aims to redirect the media's attention away from those who "vogue" because they like to and towards those who vogue because they need to. The ballroom community understands inspiration and appreciation for the vogue artform has grown worldwide, with only a small number who seek to capitalize through erasure under the guise of "originality". As such, I speak for myself by sending words of caution to the cis-heteronormative community to educate oneself before seeking to capitalize upon or engage in trends that directly deal with the facilitation of queer safe spaces of color: Inspiration without enough education can cause more problems than it solves. Originality isn't the problem. Individuals with charisma is how you win your category. But you must walk before you run. As a music producer, your song just falls flat if you don't understand that kunt feeling.

What made you want to do it? Why is now a good time for it?
I was beta testing a fighting game a few months ago and was happy to see an, albeit white, gay character. But when I noticed some of his terribly uninformed vogue-ish attacks, I was like "why couldn't you just do your research and motion capture a proper dip from a real voguer....?" It reminded me of a tweet by Rizzla in which he called out vogue tracks made by straight white producers "Brogue"—as a play on the advent of Skrillex's bro-step. I made this mix as if it were like Tekken tag tournament, putting vogue-esque songs against real ballroom tracks in an effort to put them into context. I think it's clear who the winner is.

The ballroom community is inching closer to the forefront of pop culture after being the unspoken backbone for decades, thanks to social media. There is a time and place for everything, and we are all at fault for losing sight of the bigger picture of ballroom. The media focuses on the splash, glamour of the ball and "the dance" instead of discussing Planned Parenthood and it's direct impact on the entire ballroom scene. Nepotism among legendary and iconic members of the ballroom scene causes history and knowledge to be selectively passed down to a younger generation, leading to cyclical condescension from the legends towards those without the same access to that knowledge. It doesn't have to be this way.

As much as the white queer community needs to treat us the way they would like to be treated, we as a ballroom community have our own problems to fix. This is especially true as both queer and dance communities around the world continue building their own ballroom events and holding voguing classes without the same depth of knowledge. For those who truly embrace the ballroom feeling, it doesn't have to be this way.

Tell us about why NON makes a good fit as an outlet.
On a personal level, my love for action foley sound and film score is healthily appeased by Non as someone living with synaesthesia [a "mingling of the senses" that can intensely affect how experience art or music]. More immediately, As the English speaking internet grows more and more "PC", people forget the strife and struggle that birthed the safe space. When it comes to the ballroom scene, the sounds of getting mugged, raped and harassed in the street have yet to be sonically manifested. That is a grey area NON picks up the slack in by highlighting what most communities born out of oppression, fear, doubt, and disenfranchisement overlook in their struggle to maintain and protect their safe space in general.

What are the samples in the mix, and who is talking?
Dorian Corey, Miss Jay Xclusive formerly from the house of Karan and Pendavis and Miss Cookie Tookie Samantha James from house of Revlon are like Limit Breaks or summoning Aeons or Espers in this ballroom bruk up. Aside from Corey, Jay and Samantha came up in the ballroom scene not too many years apart from each other and remember voguing as it was before social media. The same erasure concerns existed back then as they do now, and their legendary reads are just as relevant today in the context of being directed towards those who ought to educate themselves before further exploring and exploiting ballroom culture. Aside from Dorian Corey's still true observation that "you've left a mark on the world if you just get through it", things have definitely become easier with more resources and cultural understanding in 2016. However, it was fitting to hear Samantha James have the last word making it clear that there are some things only she can do despite her shortcomings. I feel a lot of the ballroom community would share her sentiment.

Follow Alexander on Twitter.

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